Tuesday 16 January 2018

Macron pledges measures to reform Europe as he seeks to cut MP numbers by a third

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters

Ingrid Melander in Versailles

France's new President Emmanuel Macron told parliament in a ceremonial address yesterday that he would seek direct approval from voters in a referendum if parliament failed to sign off his intended institutional reforms quickly enough.

Elected only two months ago by a hefty majority, Mr Macron told the lawmakers of both houses, summoned specially to the Palace of Versailles, that he wanted to cut the number of lawmakers by a third, curb the executive's role in naming magistrates, and introduce a "dose" of proportional representation.

Mr Macron has announced Europe-wide public conferences later this year in an effort to reinvigorate the European Union after the UK leaves.

In a sweeping speech laying out his priorities for his five-year presidency, Mr Macron insisted: "We need a stronger Europe."

He said he understood why many Europeans see the EU as bureaucratic, distant and uncaring.

As a result, he said France and Germany will launch conferences open to everyone in an effort to get citizens more closely involved in EU activities.

He also said European countries should work more closely to help political refugees while fighting migrant smuggling and strengthening borders against illegal migration.

He also vowed to lift a state of emergency that has been in place since 2015, but also to harden permanent security measures to fight Islamic extremism and other threats.

Mr Macron's upstart Republic on the Move party has secured a comfortable majority in the National Assembly - but France's youngest leader since Napoleon made clear his impatience to complete the reshaping of the political landscape that he has begun.

"The French people are not driven by patient curiosity, but by an uncompromising demand. It is a profound transformation that they expect," he told parliament.

"I want all these deep reforms that our institutions seriously need to be done within a year. These reforms will go to parliament but, if necessary, I will put them to voters in a referendum."

Mr Macron's aides had said that, by bringing parliament's 925 lawmakers to the 17th century palace built outside Paris by Louis XIV - the 'Sun King' - the president was seeking to restore old-fashioned grandeur to the role.

Mr Macron himself has said he plans a "Jupiterian" presidency - as a remote, dignified figure, like the Roman god of gods, who weighs his rare pronouncements carefully. It would be a marked break from his unpopular and often-mocked predecessor Francois Hollande's man-of-the-people style.

"The first act of an unchallenged presidency" read the cover of the newspaper 'Liberation', showing a god-like, bare-chested Mr Macron in a Roman toga holding bolts of lightning.

While many in France still hold dear the trappings of presidential power, Mr Macron's style has grated with others who lament the strong powers that the constitution drawn up by the war hero Charles de Gaulle bestows on the presidency.

A commanding parliamentary majority, including dozens of legislators who are new to politics, has tightened Mr Macron's grip further still. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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